Crater Lake can look very different from season to season, from day to day, and even from hour to hour. The photos in this gallery were taken by the Crater Lake Webcam at Rim Village. They can help you interpret what you're seeing on the live webcam. Click on any image to enlarge.
Crater Lake is often hidden by clouds. In the winter, it's invisible almost 50% of the time! Sometimes, icicles dangle in front of the webcam from the roof of the Sinnott Overlook.
Most summer days are sunny, providing views of three volcanic summits. Wizard Island erupted out of the lake around 7,300 years ago. Llao Rock erupted on the flanks of Mount Mazama around 7,800 years ago. Mount Thielsen hasn't erupted in the last 250,000 years.
Summer views are sometimes impacted by smoke. This photo was taken 30 minutes after the last one. The smoke was coming from the National Creek Complex, three fires burning in the northwest corner of the park.
In another 30 minutes, the lake had almost vanished. The fires of the National Creek Complex were started by lightning on August 1, 2015, burned 20,960 acres, and caused several weeks of smoky skies.
About once a year, typically in the spring, a temperature inversion causes a layer of fog to form just above the lake's surface.
On rare occasions, a thick layer of fog fills the whole caldera. It develops at night, then slowly burns off over the course of the day.
Sometimes, clouds that appear to be within the caldera are actually not. When the wind is calm, the lake's surface reflects clouds that are high above in the sky.
Calm water also reflects the contrails from aircraft passing overhead.
On windy days, clouds aren't reflected by the lake. Instead, they cast dark shadows onto its surface. These shadows give some people the mistaken impression that they're seeing the bottom of the lake.
Lodgepole pine pollen is responsible for the yellow film that appears on the lake every June and July. The tiny grains float for weeks before sinking, herded by the wind into beautiful swirls and streaks.
On calm nights in the winter and spring, a layer of skim ice sometimes develops. It usually doesn't last long, broken up by the wind and rising sun. The lake hasn't frozen over with solid ice since 1949.
More often, what looks like ice is actually just water being disturbed by the wind. Wind ripples are responsible for the darker patches on the right-hand side of this image.
In the summer and fall, it's common to have calm conditions in the morning followed by a breezy afternoon. When the winds pick up, the leading edge of the wind is visible as it crosses the lake.
Strong winds bring whitecaps and big waves to Crater Lake. Although the park's prevailing wind direction is southwest to northeast, winter gales sometimes blow the opposite direction.
When gales from the north carry moisture, snow sometimes adheres to the window that protects the webcam's lens.
White specks on the water are not always whitecaps. You might be seeing birds (typically California gulls) or floating logs. In this case, the white dots are tour boats. Can you spot the one behind Wizard Island? Three tour boats operate on Crater Lake in the summer. They hold 37 passengers, a captain, and a ranger who provides narration.
Dark objects on the lake sometimes cause people to report that they've seen a monster. This particular monster is one of the park's two research boats. So far, researchers have not discovered any actual serpents.
Occasionally, the webcam does spot signs of intelligent life, usually from visitors standing underneath it at the Sinnott Overlook.
Last updated: January 18, 2022